Canberra, Aug 25 (IANS) A 29-year-old man has been charged with murder as an alleged infatuation with a British woman emerged focus of a police investigation into her stabbing death at an Australian backpackers hostel.
French-Algerian man Smail Ayad had met Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 21, just days earlier as her roommate at the hostel in Home Hill, where he was arrested on Tuesday for stabbing her, the Guardian reported.
Ayad allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” — God is greatest in Arabic — during the attack, in which two men who came to Ayliffe-Chung’s aid were wounded, including a British man with critical injuries.
However, detective superintendent Ray Rohweder said on Thursday there was “no indication whatsoever that any radicalisation or any political motives existed to cause him to attack the people that he did”.
Ayad faces a charge of murdering Ayliffe-Chung and one of the attempted murder of Briton Tom Jackson.
He also faces a serious animal cruelty charge over the fatal wounding of a dog and charges allegedly relating to serious assaults on 12 police officers following his arrest.
He will appear in Townsville magistrates court on Friday by videolink.
Ayad’s assaults in custody include biting one officer. Police used a stun gun and capsicum spray to subdue him in the Townsville watchhouse. Rohweder said this arrangement was agreed to by Ayad’s legal representatives.
Rohweder said Ayad, who had consular assistance from the French government, had declined to be interviewed by the police before being charged.
Jackson’s father was due to arrive from Britain to visit his critically injured son in Townsville hospital on Thursday night who remained “very ill”, according to Rohweder.
He also said a toxicology test result on Ayad was not yet available but police, who were examining whether mental health or drugs misuse issues were factors in the incident, said he had smoked cannabis on the night of the attacks.
Body cameras worn by police recorded him again uttering “Allahu Akbar” when he was arrested at Shelley’s Backpackers, but French nationals who witnessed the incident have told police Ayad’s shouted speech that was incoherent and nonsensical.
Ayad, who had been in Australia on a temporary visa since March, allegedly told fellow hostel guests he planned to marry Ayliffe-Chung in the days before the attack.
The alleged attack was witnessed by up to 30 onlookers, some of whom are understood to have recorded the incident on their mobile phone cameras.
Ayliffe-Chung’s mother paid tribute to her from England, describing her as an “amazing, adventurous and sassy” daughter.
Ayliffe-Chung, from Derbyshire in Britain, was days into a three-month stint doing casual labour on farms in the area — a condition by which working holiday makers can extend their visit to Australia.
Queensland police had sought the involvement of the Australian federal police in the investigation in response to Ayad’s alleged cries of “Allahu Akbar”.